Well, sometimes my posts seem to post and other times they don’t. I thought I was in one of those not working time and decided to send that last one in order to save it – only it decided to post anyway. Ah well; you got the first part of that.
Out of Foncebadon, we hiked up the hill to the Cruz de Ferro; a stopping point along the way where there is a tiny iron cross atop a tall pole rising from what has become a giant mound of stones and other offerings from peregrinos from times past. I picked up a worry stone along the way and worried it to the top of the hill; contemplating my arrogance and worry as I went. I left both the stones there and somehow avoided any worries or any obvious arrogance for the rest of that day. Alas, ’twas all back again the next day, though maybe something has changed a mite. I do seem more aware in addition to being at least 300 grams lighter (my arrogance stone I’ve carried from home was a fairly big one). It was pretty moving in some way walking around the top of the pile of stones, seeing all of the messages and pictures pinned to the beam, and thinking of all the stories culminating, intertwining, and starting at that spot from what is probably now millions of human beings over all the centuries. I was pondering what I think about the whole Christian tradition of laying down my “stuff” (arrogance, worry, whatever) at the foot of the cross. I’m not sure about that part of my belief system right now, but I do know that there is something profound in being deliberate about the stuff I deal with in this life and symbolically opening myself to something happening with that stuff in a positive direction. Where God or the Christ or Spirit parts of God enter into that process, I don’t know, but I’m open to finding out through experience.
We traveled on from the Cruz de Ferro and pushed hard that day making quite a few kilometers for being sick to make it to the outskirts of Ponferrada, a fairly large city of 5,000 or so. Katrina said something about wanting to check out this large, purpose-built Albergue there maintained on the grounds of an old convent by a volunteer organization. They only take donativos (donations) for the stay, and according to the book, they have 210 beds but break them up into smaller rooms. We made it all the way to the San Nicolas de Flue, but just barely. The last 5 kilometers was a long, hot walk down a sidewalk that didn’t quite jive with the book and had us pushed to the limit of endurance. Katrina, in particular, was entering a rather foul point in the progression of this disease that’s gotten ahold of us, and she was about ready to pass out at one point while we were quibbling over the right way to turn.
This also ended up being a quite striking contrast to that same point in my own sickness where we stopped over in a couple of nice private hotel rooms with plenty of time for rest and recuperation. Though in a fairly nice room with only four bunks, the shared facilities and ridiculous situation for dinner really put Kat quite over the edge. The albergue operated quite like the hospitals de peregrinos of old, with a fellow out front working through the incoming walking wounded to see what he could do about treating feet. We saw quite a few cases that he was dealing with that put our (especially mine) blisters quite to shame. I couldn’t believe some of those people were still walking!
We asked the local medic if he happened to have any cough syrup or decongestant, the two medications we were in desperate need of, but to no avail. He pointed us at the nearest pharmacy, assuring it would be open on Sunday afternoon (to our skepticism). We hobbled up the street to the indicated plaza, but the farmacia was indeed closed. We opted to stick around for dinner as there were a few places that looked promising based on our newfound ability to order properly. We lighted in an outdoor cafe, ordered a couple of drinks, and inquired about dinner – all things we’re becoming passable at in Spanish. Despite the relatively large crowd gathered, we were informed that the kitchen wouldn’t open till 8, and it was only around 6 at the time. This quite typical Spanish custom is so foreign to us and so atypical of many places along the Camino that cater to the odd hours of pilgrims with early dinners, early breakfasts, and lunch stuff pretty much anytime.
We ordered a little more to drink and had fun watching the life of the plaza through a long Sunday afternoon. We got excited around 8, only to discover another Spanish custom – general lack of punctuality. Kitchens opening at 8 meant that the wait staff started to change the white paper on the tables to red paper and put out a couple of portable lights that indicated the place was thinking about opening up for dinner. We finally ordered something around 8:30 and were eating by 9ish. We discovered a new critter called a gula in our fried egg dish. It’s a tiny little finless fish that’s a stand-in for the more expensive tiny eels that add some interesting and quite tasty protein to many Spanish dishes. Despite looking a little like worms in our plates, the meal was quite good. Kat actually felt a whole lot better after eating a bit as we realized we really hadn’t had anything much at all since breakfast.
I think I’m going to break off now and see if this message will post. I’ve got quite a bit more to tell about the day in Ponferrada, our short walk the next day to Cacabellos, and our marvelous experiences today through the Valle de Seo and our funky little casa rural here in Ambasmestas. I’ll be back in a bit.